A wine bottle in one hand; a steel crutch in another–Li Tieguai, one of the Eight Taoist Immortals, appears in a pair of straw sandals in Qi baishi's "Portrait of Li Tieguai". It is the top lot of the upcoming Christie's New York sale on Chinese paintings. Valuable enough, it bears the inscription of "jiu shi wu sui bai shi lao ren bu qian nian zi" (九十五歲白石老人補前年字), which indicates the the age of the reowned painter with his signature.
There are many versions of the Li Tiequai story. Some say that originally he was a Taoist priest. Once, his soul went to Hua Shan for meeting Taishang Laojun (The Grand Pure One, a Taoist god), leaving the body under the guardiance of his disciple. However, the disciple failed him and had his body burnt. Without blood and flesh, Li's soul could only wander around the streets helplessly; until he found a dead body of a begger whose leg was impaired for possession. Taking on a new face, Li becomes immortal and the sacred protector for the poor in Taoism.
"Clear Stream from the Forest" by Wang Shimin and "Landscape–A Gift to Ban Yun" by Ni Zan, both portraying beautiful natural sceneries of mountains and water, are also offered in the sale.
Auction House: Christie's New York
Sale: Fine Chinese Paintings
Sale No.: 14182
Lot No.: 124
Sale Time: 2017/3/15 10am (updated due to inclement weather)
QIBAISHI (1863-1957) Portrait of Li Tieguai
Lot No.: 79
WANG SHIMIN (1592-1680) Clear Stream from the Forest
Lot No.: 15
NI ZAN (1301-1374) Landscape-A Gift to Ban Yun